How to Cook Pasta in the Instant Pot / Electric Pressure Cooker

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Learn how to cook pasta in your Instant Pot, Ninja Foodi, or other brand of electric pressure cooker. This is the easiest, hands-off way to make perfect pasta every time. 

Overhead shot on three white bowls of pasta filled with bow ties, rotini, and penne pasta arranged in a triangular shape, with fettuccini  and spaghetti in the corners

If your household is anything like mine, you love a good pasta dinner! There are so many delicious options that it’s the perfect go-to dinner, whether you’re serving just yourself or a hungry crowd. 

Making pasta in the Instant Pot is one of the easiest ways to do it. No babysitting, stirring, or boiling water necessary! (And no tomato sauce splattered all over my oven afterwards either!)

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How to Cook Pasta in the Instant Pot / Pressure Cooker

While I’ve included a bunch of tips below, there’s really only four steps you have to worry about. These four steps will give you PERFECT pasta:

  1. Find your cooking time.
  2. Add just enough water to barely cover the past in the pot. 
  3. Use an intermittent release to avoid foaming.
  4. When the valve drops, carefully remove the lid and drain your pasta. 
A close-up of the box of INstant Pot Tri-Color Rotini, with a bowlful of pasta and an Instant Pot in the background

Formula: Calculate the Perfect Pasta Cook Time

For perfect Instant Pot pasta, there’s a pretty simple formula to find the right cooking time: take the time listed on the box, cut it in half, then subtract an additional minute.

For example, for bowtie pasta, if the package says to cook for 12 minutes, I’d pressure cook it for 5 minutes. (12 minutes divided by 2, minus 1 additional minute).

This formula works for regular pasta, whole wheat pasta, gluten-free pasta, rice-based pasta, or pretty much any kind.

Tip: If the cook time is an odd number, I generally round down. 

Eggplant parmigiana cooked in an Instant Pot.

Adjusting for Softer or Firmer Pasta 

I recommend starting with the formula above for the first time you make pasta in your Instant Pot. Then the next time, if you want a bit more bite, subtract a minute from the cook time. If you want it softer, add a minute until you get your perfect texture. 

After a few times making pasta, you’ll know the perfect timing to cook your brand of pasta to your preferred taste.

Use an Intermittent Pressure Release

High-starch foods like potatoes and pasta frequently foam while pressure cooking. Usually, a long, slow natural pressure release is better to allow the foam to subside. However, pasta will easily overcook so you need a quick pressure release to keep it from going mushy. 

That’s why you’ll use an intermittent release. Here’s how to do it:

  • When the cook time ends, flip the pressure valve from Sealed to Venting. Allow the pressure to release until you see foam or large water droplets coming from the valve. 
  • As soon as this happens, flip the switch back to Sealed and wait for 20 to 30 seconds. This will reduce the foam.
  • Flip back to Venting and repeat as necessary until all the pressure is released.

You should only need to do this once or twice. 

Instant pot spaghetti and meatballs with a bite being taken out with a fork in front of an instant pot electric pressure cooker

How to Limit Foaming

If you’re worried about the foaming, the best way to reduce foam is by adding cooking fat. You can add oil or butter to the pasta and water. 

Or if you’re making a meat sauce, sauté ground beef or chicken in the pressure cooking pot as a first step. Remove the meat from the pot before adding the pasta and water. 

Also, note that some brands foam more than others. If you’re having trouble with foaming, consider switching brands and see if that helps.

Multiple types of uncooked pastas in different bowls. This tutorial will tell you how to cook any of these kinds in an Instant Pot

Know Your Noodles 

Some pasta shapes are better for pressure cooking than others. Unless I’m following a specific recipe, I prefer to use shorter noodles like rotini, penne, farfalle (bowtie), or shells. Longer pastas like spaghetti, linguine, and angel hair, tend to clump together.

uncooked spaghetti noodles in Instant Pot

Instant Pot Spaghetti Tips

If you want to cook spaghetti, break the noodles in half and add a tablespoon or two of butter or vegetable oil to the pressure cooking pot. This will help minimize clumping. After you release the pressure, gently stir the noodles. If necessary, use a fork to separate the individual noodles.

An overhead photo of the Instant Pot with the pasta and trivet inside and the tomato sauce in the silver cake pan, ready to sit on top of the trivet

How Much Water to Add?

Whether you’re cooking a single serving or a whole box, use enough liquid to just barely cover the pasta. (Of course, be sure to follow your pressure cooker’s minimum liquid requirements.) After cooking, drain your pasta through a colander or use a ladle to spoon off the extra liquid.

overhead of an instant pot with tomato sauce to make pressure cooker spaghetti and meatballs

Instant Pot Pasta Sauce

Unless I’m following a specific recipe, I prefer to cook the pasta in water and cook the sauce pot-in-pot above the pasta. 

However, you can cook pasta in a sauce. If you do this, it is SO IMPORTANT to add enough liquid to the pot. Many jarred sauces include thickeners, which can create a film on the bottom of the cooking pot that will change how your pasta cooks and may lead to a Burn notice.

If the sauce is thin when you remove the lid after pressure cooking, turn off the Instant Pot. The pasta will continue to absorb liquid as it cools. 

If the sauce has far too much liquid, select Sauté and simmer the pasta until the sauce is somewhat thickened.

Overhead shot of adding salt to the water for making Instant Pot Pasta

Salt Your Water

For really flavorful pasta, there’s no substitute for salting your water. It absorbs into the noodles and really enhances the flavor.

I rarely actually use a measuring spoon—usually I’ll just eyeball a teaspoon and toss it in.

(Also, for the record, Martha recommends avoiding iodized salt for this job.)

Instant Pot Pasta Recipes

Want to see some examples of different pasta shapes and cook times? Use some of our favorite Instant Pot pasta recipes as a guide.

(For your convenience, a note about their cook times and pasta shapes are included below.)

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